Tag Archives: poetry

Blackthorn Poetry

This poem came out of some recent divination undertaken on my behalf. I was told that what lay ahead would be blackthorn, and I got to thinking about what that might mean for me.

 

On the Blackthorn Path

 

I walk a blackthorn path

This is a hard way.

The longest, cruellest thorns

Keen to breed infection

When they cut your skin

Pierce your shoes, snag

Your clothes, scratch and wound.

I will bleed on this journey

It demands sacrifice.

You cannot pass through

Blackthorn hedge or spinny

Only take the path suggested

Go where it tells you.

If you would take control

If you would lay a blackthorn hedge

In the old way, it is the hardest

Wood to cut, or bend or tame.

What results is long enduring.

Walk the blackthorn path

Through the first frosts and harvest

Vibrant purple sloes, make magic

With alcohol – there are rewards

On this difficult adventure

Reasons to take so hard a way.

Survive a winter and in spring

The pale, sweet profusion, blackthorn blossom

Waits for those who will travel this far.

Heart torn, soul battered, hurting

I walk the blackthorn path.

I will turn my frost into sweetness

Find strength in my obstinacy,

Learn from the blackthorn

Make what good I can

Honour the unforgiving guardian

Until the very end of the bitter road

No matter what that means.

If you are walking this path

I may find you along the way

However hard the walking

It is easier faced together.

There lies richness in fruit and flowers

And the path with fewest thorns.


What does it mean to unpeel a monster?

The title of my latest poetry collection – How to Unpeel a Monster – reflects something that has lifelong significance for me. It comes from a story about a child born with too many skins, who is monstrous and must be unpeeled to reclaim their human self, and the first poem in the book reflects this.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling monstrous. Too much, too difficult, too demanding, too cold, too sensitive, too emotional, too unemotional – I’ve been called all of this and more. I’ve spent much of my life feeling that I do not properly qualify as a person. As a consequence, I often see myself as someone rigid with defensive layers. I find it hard to trust, to soften myself, to open up to people.

During the period I was working on these poems, my relationships with a number of people changed in significant ways. There were several friends who started making deliberate efforts to come in and unpeel me. Offering safe space and support, accepting me as I am and not finding me monstrous, they helped me change how I think about my monster skins.

I’m still working on that. I don’t know that I need to be entirely unpeeled to reclaim some more acceptable shape. There are days when I feel good enough as I am, and days when I even enjoy being me without feeling that I need to do a lot of work on fixing and improving myself. There are also days when all I can see are my own savage teeth and claws and my unreasonable, unacceptableness.

What do any of us need to change? And are those changes for our benefit, or to comfort, ease or appease someone else? How much pressure is there to take off the unacceptable aspects of self based on what other people will allow and not who you need to be? What if there could be room for me to be all of the things? Hard and soft, furred and feathered, red in tooth, claw and tenderness, monstrous and fragile, strong and vulnerable, broken and unbreakable…

The journey into dealing with what I find monstrous about myself is increasingly a journey of finding that I just need more room for who I am. More spaces where more of me is acceptable. More people who are excited about the aspects of me that people in my history have found too difficult. I need the people who can hold those spaces of acceptance for me. I know I have them. I’m starting to see what it might be like to be able to live as my whole self, unashamed of how messy and complicated some of that can be.

All of my skins are equally real and valid. It’s just a case of what I want to share, and who it makes sense to share that with. Unpeeling is always an option. So is putting on a new and different skin. A tough and protective hide is just as acceptable as a soft, tender underbelly. I have to make space for all of it, and I do not have to make space for the people who might want me to be smaller than I am.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey, unpeeling the fear and making room for the skins.

More about the poetry in this post – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/08/08/how-to-unpeel-a-monster/


Land Songs and Master Jack – a review

Land Songs by Kris Hughes is a collection of 11 poems. For such a small collection, it manages to bring together a very large amount of myth, folklore, landscape and spiritual insight. It was a pleasure to read and is the sort of collection you can comfortably sit down and go through in a single sitting – there’s a sense of relationship between the pieces that very much enables read it in one go.

I am, I realise, always going to be excited about people writing poetry about non-exploitative relationships with the land. There are some landscape love affair poems in this collection, and that delights me. Some of the myth-based material might not make much sense to a reader who is not familiar with the Pagan heritage of the British isles, but, you can always look up the names and fill in the gaps, so it might in that way prove to be an invitation to dig deeper. There are some notes at the front of the collection to help you navigate this material, which is a good inclusion. It’s never easy to be sure whether to let work stand as it is, or to explain but in this case the notes definitely enrich the text.

I can recommend this collection for anyone interested in poetry, I highly recommend it to anyone on the bard path for both the inspiration in it and what you can learn about writing as a bard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master Jack is a short story with strong folklore themes, and a dash of the supernatural. It’s written with deep understanding of folk tradition, and the people involved in it, and with a love and respect for living tradition that delighted me. It manages – as folk traditions often do – to square up to death and difficulty while being fundamentally warm and affirming. It’s a lovely read. As someone who has played creatures in mumming sides, I found it really resonant. I’ve never worked with a horse skull, but I’ve always wanted to.

You can find Land Songs and Master Jack on Kris Hughes’ website – http://www.godeeper.info/shop.html

 


How to Unpeel a Monster

I’ve finally got How to Unpeel a Monster up as a print version in case anyone wants a hard copy.

I gave away a fair few ecopies of this poetry collection earlier in the year. It is available for kindle should you prefer to buy it, but I’m always happy to send out free ebooks. Leave a comment if you want one of those, and I’ll pick up your email address from there.

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown/dp/B08DBZDDBL

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B08D6RX7Z7


Landscape poetry

Marginal

 

Life is richest

At the margins.

Wood edge, field side

Light and shade.

Butterfly places

Flower haven

Alive with bees.

I eat wild herbs

Underripe blackberries

Spot small birds

Too fast for naming.

Happiest at the edges

Where wild lives

Cling to the unwanted

Land at the boundary.

Untamed, uncut, unfarmed

But not unloved.


Soul Land – a review

Soul Land by Natalia Clarke is a love letter to a landscape. It was a joy for me reading someone else’s poetry in this vein – having done something similar with a poetry collection of my own called Mapping the Contours.

Natalia is in love with Scotland, and her poems are passionate expressions of a profound love affair with place. The writing is generous, sensuous, wholehearted.  These are bardic braise poems directed at place rather than person, and I greatly enjoyed reading them.

I recommend this collection primarily for the pleasure of reading it. However, for anyone on the bard path wondering about writing love songs, love letters, and romances directed towards the non-human, this is a lovely example. For the person who feels alienated and craves relationship with the land, this collection may help you on your way.

To be a body in a landscape. To be alive and keenly feeling and in relationship with all that is around you is an exquisite thing. For me, it is a key part of the Druid path. I’m painfully aware though that many people do not have that grounding love in their lives. Alienation from land, landscape and a sense of place is a modern illness, and reading and writing can be one way back into the land. Poems can be maps, and guides to help us heal and to rebuild the relationships that should always have been ours.

More about the book here – https://rawnaturespirit.com/e-guide/


Poetry with Mr Death

For several years, the Piranha Poetry nights in Stroud were a key community space for me. I wrote a lot more poetry because there were people to read it to. It was a space that felt safe and welcoming, and that was reliably inclusive. I tend to show up in community spaces and fail to figure out how to be other than awkward and peripheral. But Piranha Poetry always felt like home. I’ve really missed it.

Organiser Gary Death had one of those large birthdays this year, so back before lockdown I wrote him a poem, because I thought it would be funny to jam on the ee cummings line about Mr Death. And then I lost the poem.  By happy accident, I found the hand written first draft at the weekend.

 

Happy birthday Mr Death (belatedly)

 

And what I want to know is, how do you like your blue eyed boy, Mr Death?

ee cummings man, his very how pants of the outside of his

Many bells trousers leaps to the microphone.

In the audience, three former students of English literature

Faint at the very sight of him.

No one who has ever tried to answer that question has survived

Unscathed.

But Mr Death is ready, like he’s been waiting his whole life

For ee cummings man, poetic anti-super-hero in a war against

Capital letters, to storm his stage and enquire about blue eyed boys.

Mr Death is ready.

Turns.

Lowers his trousers.

Moons.

This is his superpower and in the glowing radiance of his posterior,

Literature’s caped crusader has nothing more to say.

One elderly member of the audience has a nosebleed.

Seven will later require counselling.

Three will be haunted by erotic dreams.

Mr Death pulls up his trousers

And invites another floor spot poet

To take their chances.

He likes his blue eyed boys like he likes his piranhas

Allegedly.


A very hobbit birthday

Dear readers, it is my birthday today and I thought I would take a hobbit approach to that – namely by offering gifts to everyone else!

I have a new poetry collection called How to Unpeel A Monster.

The cover is based on a photo of me and a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Tom Brown drew me a version of it, and I coloured it using oil pastels. For the photo, I had a small skull duct-taped to my nipple – don’t try this at home! But it pretty well sums up the project – a bit dark, a bit twisted, a bit painful, somewhat preposterous and also quite funny in places.

If you would like a copy, leave a comment – wordpress shows me your email address when you comment, so I can easily email you a pdf. I’ll start sending them out on the 15th of June.

 


Reclaiming Power – a poem

Let my power be

What grace I have,

The sway of my hips

A bolder spine

Defiant chin.

Available as I choose

Open arms

Open thighs

The power to say no

Is the power to say yes

With all my heart.

 

I claim the power to trust

That I will be honoured

My power not misread

As power over or excuse

No patriarchal Goddess

Of Justification, no deity

Of rape culture made to bear

The shame and guilt

Of violent transgression

I refuse this story, this history.

 

My power is in the gifting

Power to share and express

When that essential energy

Meets your generous power

When we are mighty together

For each other

None diminished.

 

Enchant me, seduce me, delight me.

You have no power over me

Except as I freely submit.

Gasp for me, yearn for me

Fall at my feet if you

Would give such power to me

And see your own strength

In the beauty of all

You give away.

 

Let my power flow in my hips

Open arms, open thighs

The willing, triumphant surrender

When it is safe to choose

Powerlessness

Safe to choose

Power.


Toward Beltane

A guest blog from Ing Venning

 

Toward Beltane

 

 

When presented with beige folding,

when gifted with pale pinkness,

do you argue that white

is the take-charge pigment

or that red has always been

the more supportive hue?

 

Can you accept

my pistil and my stamen

or are you merely a boy,

simply a girl,

never a budding flower

bright with the sunny joy

of scented days and secret nights?

 

Perfection is the flaw

that defilement approaches.

 

Will you ask only one

or two questions

before taking your leave?

Or will you open at the south

and beg a third?

 

Ing Venning is the outsider author of the Wheel of the Year saga (a fantasy series featuring pagan, LGBTQIA+, and non-capitalist characters), Sources (a collection of retellings), and, most recently, a poetry collection called Lexical Numerals (of which “Toward Beltane” is part). Ing is working hard to get off disability and raise himself up to the poverty line in uncertain times. Want to try a sampler of his work or his first novel for free? Visit https://ingvenning.com/